The Washington Post reports that the Department of Homeland Security, which had sought to create a database of license-plate-reader information has scrapped the plan amid privacy questions. We’ve discussed the privacy and civil liberty issues connected with the use of license-plate-scanner recognition technology to gather and record drivers’ movements. Often, we don’t know what the restrictions are on the collection and use of the data. (See a previous post for more information on the camera surveillance technology.) Recently, the Boston police department stopped a program using license-plate-scanning technology to gather data on drivers after privacy questions arose. Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report (pdf) on license-plate readers and how they are used as surveillance devices. The Post reports:
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Wednesday ordered the cancellation of a plan by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to develop a national license-plate tracking system after privacy advocates raised concern about the initiative.
The order came just days after ICE solicited proposals from companies to compile a database of license-plate information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers. Officials said the database was intended to help apprehend fugitive illegal immigrants, but the plan raised concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized.
The data would have been drawn from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, officials told The Washington Post this week. […]
Lawmakers and privacy advocates reacted with approval.
The fact that the solicitation was posted without knowledge of ICE leadership “highlights a serious management problem within this DHS component that currently does not have a director nominated by the president,” Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (Miss.), the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement. He added that he hopes officials will consult with the department’s privacy and civil liberties officers in the future.